Utah at risk for toxic dust from shrinking Great Salt Lake, scientist says

SALT LAKE CITY  — All of northern Utah faces threat from mud storms laced with arsenic and different chemical compounds from a shrinking Nice Salt Lake, a scientist warned a panel of lawmakers on Tuesday evening.

“The mud is harmful no matter what it’s made out of if the concentrations are excessive sufficient,” mentioned Kevin Perry, an atmospheric sciences professor on the College of Utah.

Perry has been researching the mud generated by the more and more uncovered lake mattress. He met with the Utah state legislature’s bipartisan Clear Air Caucus, which is wanting into payments coping with air high quality on account of the dramatically declining Nice Salt Lake.

Greater than 800 miles of lake mattress is now uncovered on account of the lake’s document low. Analysis has proven it has arsenic, lithium, copper and different metals in it which are naturally occurring in parts of the lake. The place water has stored it coated, that’s not the case and mud storms are more and more blowing it into areas round northern Utah. Regardless, there are dangers of PM10 and PM2.5 particulates from the Nice Salt Lake.

“The concentrations which are coming off the lake have, every now and then, violated the nationwide ambient air high quality requirements,” Perry mentioned. “Which implies they may have a right away and acute well being influence.”

What’s unknown but is how a lot it takes for these chemical compounds to hurt our well being. Perry recognized “sizzling spots” round Farmington Bay and Bear River Bay, that are close to populated areas. However all of northern Utah is in danger, relying on the path of the wind.

“Right now, we have now wind from the south. Tomorrow, we’ll have wind kind the north, which suggests mud from these sizzling spots shall be moved everywhere in the Wasatch Entrance and everyone from Tremonton to Tooele to Salt Lake County to Provo to Park Metropolis — everyone shall be uncovered to mud coming off the Nice Salt Lake in some unspecified time in the future,” Dr. Perry mentioned.

He inspired the legislature to spend cash to assist Utah’s Division of Environmental High quality monitor the mud and analyze it to know what’s in it and the way it may influence human well being. It is going to take at the very least 10 ft of latest water to assist avert the mud issues.

“We’re properly previous the tipping level for mud emission,” he advised the Clear Air Caucus.

The Nice Salt Lake hit a brand new document low this 12 months and Utah’s Division of Pure Sources mentioned it continues to say no. It’s a results of local weather change, drought and water diversion. The company advised lawmakers on Tuesday they predicted additional declines with out ongoing motion to get water into the lake and have been exploring some novel options, together with elevated cloud seeding to generate extra rain and snow.

Alarmed by the shrinking lake, the legislature and Governor Spencer Cox have pledged motion. Home Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, mentioned it may value billions. Newly-appointed Utah Division of Pure Sources director Joel Ferry has referred to as the lake his “prime precedence.” They handed a sequence of water conservation payments and gave $40 million to a pair of environmental teams to particularly safe water for the Nice Salt Lake.

On Tuesday, a type of environmental teams mentioned they have been working to safe offers. Marcelle Shoop with the Audubon Society declined to provide specifics on the place they’re, however advised the caucus they have been engaged on agreements.

“We might be more than pleased as soon as the agreements are in place to return again and supply extra substantive particulars,” she mentioned.

For members of the Clear Air Caucus, it was a name to motion. The group’s co-chair, Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, advised FOX 13 Information he believed the legislature can do extra.

“What the state, in my thoughts, must be interested by is a few ongoing cash to go in direction of having water going into the lake in a dependable means,” he mentioned. “That we will comprehend it’s going to be there for us.”

This text was written by Ben Winslow for KSTU.

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